Canada Handing Out New Grants for Biomass Research

manitobaResearchers looking to turn biomass into energy will get some help from one of the Canadian provinces. Manitoba has doubled the Biomass Energy Support Program funding to $1 million, with the additional $500,000 of new funding targeted to applied research projects that will support the growth of the biomass industry.

“Manitoba’s green economy creates new opportunities for biofuel manufacturers and additional markets for producers,” said [Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron] Kostyshyn. “Research and development is needed to build capacity across the province and address any gaps in our biomass sector. Through this strategic investment, we can support even more Manitoba farms and businesses as they invest in a more sustainable future.”

The new funding will be directed to applied research projects that address gaps or identify opportunities for business and technology development in the biomass sector. The minister noted that priority will be given to projects with short turnaround times that support Manitoba’s coal-reduction strategy and that project results will be shared with producers, processors and other stakeholders.

Eligible biomass fuels include:

– Agricultural residue such as wheat and flax straw, sunflower hulls or compacted biomass-like wheat and oat pellets;
– Forestry residues such as wood chips or salvaged timber; and
– Biomass crops such as switchgrass, willow and poplar.

Researchers wanting some of the available funds need to apply by Sept. 1. More information is available at www.manitoba.ca/agriculture/innovation-and-research/biomass-energy-support-program.html.

Navy Remains Full-Steam Ahead on Biofuels

navybiofuelsnimitz1The U.S. Navy is moving full-steam ahead, despite some obstacles that have come up for its program on biofuels. This article from Motley Fool posted on the NASDAQ website says the Navy wants to get 50 percent of its energy from alternatives to petroleum. To make sure these fuels are ready for the fight, the service is looking at drop-in fuels, and with a provision in the recent Defense Department appropriations, the Navy has to do it at the same cost as petroleum-based fuels.

In the past the Navy has tested advanced biofuels that cost upward of $26 per gallon. That price, of course, didn’t sit well with many taxpayers, which is why the National Defense Authorization Act was passed, which limited the Department of Defense from paying higher prices for alternative fuels than it pays for petroleum-based fuels.

In order to combat the high price of commercial drop-in biofuels, the Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, worked together to create the Farm-to-Fleet program. Under the program, producers seeking to offer drop-in biofuels can apply to the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation for grants that will offset the cost of the feedstocks needed to produce these drop-in biofuels. Further, some drop-in biofuels can qualify for Renewable Identification Numbers, which can be sold to further offset the cost. The hope is that between these two offsets producers will be able to supply a drop-in jet fuel, which is the most costly fuel the navy uses, for the same price as traditional jet fuel.

Earlier this summer, a government procurement report showed the U.S. Navy has for the first time put biofuels in the mix for requests for military-specification diesel fuel and jet fuel.

Advanced Biofuels Industry Comments on 2014 RFS

The advanced biofuels community is responding this week to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) submission of the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where it will be reviewed. Although the rule is not public, groups are speculating on what the final rule entails with hope still that advanced biofuels will not see a reversal in volumes.

“A little less than a year ago, press leaks first suggested that EPA might reduce the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) for advanced biofuels to as little as 2.2 billion gallons, which is substantially lower than current production,” said Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) President Michael McAdams when hearing the rule had been sent to OMB.

“Since that time, ABFA members and our many allies have clearly demonstrated that such reductions would fall disproportionately on advanced biofuels and represent a significant reversal of the Obama administration’s previous support for our industry. We hope the final rule will be a major improvement and encourage the White House to set RFS volume obligations at levels that are consistent with our industry’s current and projected production capacity for advanced and cellulosic biofuels,” McAdams added.

Joe Jobe NBBNational Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe is hoping to see an increase in biodiesel from the proposal released last year. Joe explained the the proposed rule would cap out biodiesel and cause a dramatic reduction in production.

“This is a cornerstone energy policy that has demonstrated that it works,” said Jobe. “Last year we were able to demonstrate that the program works. We grew from a little over 1 billion gallon in 2012 to just 2 billion gallons in 2013.” Jobe continued by stressing this allowed for investment and growth – all elements of a successful energy policy.

Jobe noted that biodiesel has allowed the advanced biofuel category to be met every year. While OMB has 90 days to review the rule, Jobe hope it will go faster.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

Algae Systems Converts Algae to Biofuels, Clean Water

Algae Systems has completed a biofuel production demonstration project in conjunction with Japan’s IHI Corporation. The demonstration plant is located in Daphne, Alabama and the process combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both biofuel and drinking water.

Algae Systems Daphne projectMatthew C. Atwood, president and CEO of Algae Systems explains that while algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, their approach differs by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.

“This is the first demonstration of producing clean water and biofuel from wastewater and algae. We have demonstrated that we can treat wastewater at a low-cost while beating the current price of fuel,” said Atwood.

The project approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities and focuses on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to Algae Systems Daphne project2promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis creates the chemical reactions that can power our future.

Atwood said the use of offshore photobioreactors means that a valuable land footprint would not be required to deploy the system commercially, and the motion of waves and wind provides ideal temperature and mixing controls as well as a reduction of operating costs. From an environmental perspective, ecological dead zones can also be eliminated.

Another feature of the demonstration facility, said Atwood, is significant advancements made in the production of fuels from biomass. Algae Systems has demonstrated a new proprietary technology for the conversion of wet algae and other biomass feedstocks into biocrude oil, and has successfully demonstrated upgrading the bio-crude oil into diesel, jet and gasoline.

“Building commercial plants around the world that will enable low-cost wastewater treatment and fuel production,” said Atwood when explaining what success looks like. “Our next steps are to find commercial sites and raise additional financing for the company to expand.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFMaxwell Technologies, Inc. has announced that Win Inertia, an engineering firm specializing in power electronics, energy storage and control and communication systems, is using its ultracapacitors for a stationary wayside braking energy recuperation system at an electric rail system in Cerro Negro, Spain. Win Inertia designed and installed the system under a contract with the Spanish government’s Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (ADIF). In this installation, the system also enables ADIF to store excess energy in a battery bank that supplies an electric vehicle charging station located at the rail station. The facility also seamlessly integrated a photovoltaic generator to supply additional energy if required.
  • Ellomay Capital Ltd., an emerging operator in the renewable energy and energy infrastructure sector, has announced the approval by the Italian parliament and the conversion into law of the Italian decree providing for a decrease in the Feed-in-Tariff guaranteed to existing photovoltaic plants with nominal capacity of more than 200 kW (“Law 116/2014″).
  • Genera Energy has released a new infographic featuring a visual overview of biomass feedstock and guidelines for choosing the best solution for every biomass project. The four-page infographic highlights key supply chain elements and explores which biomass crops are best suited for an application.
  • Washington, D.C. has allocated $200,000 to be used to create a kinetically-powered “Connecticut Avenue Overlook Parklet“. The tech to generate electricity from the footsteps of passersby will come from 100 Pavegen kinetic pavers that are expected to generate an annual 456.25 kilowatts of energy. That energy will be stored and used to power lighting for the 850-square-foot mini-park, which is being designed by ZGF Architects LLP.

Verizon Goes Big With Solar

Verizon is set to become the number one solar producer among U.S. communication companies. They have announced an investment of nearly $40 million to expand their onsite green energy program. This year, the company will install 10.2 MW of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. This new investment nearly doubles the amount of renewable power generated by six Verizon solar facilities last year. To date, Verizon has invested nearly $140 million in onsite green energy. With the 2014 solar investment announced, Verizon is on target to deploy upward of 25 MW of renewable energy.

“Our investment in onsite green energy is improving the quality of life in the communities we serve by reducing CO2 levels and reducing strain on commercial power grids, while increasing our energy efficiency,” said James Gowen, Verizon’s chief sustainability officer. “By almost doubling the amount of renewable, solar energy we’re using, we are making further progress toward Verizon’s goal of cutting our carbon intensity in half by 2020, in part, by leveraging the proven business case for clean-energy alternatives to the commercial power grid.”

Verizon solar farm Basking Ridge NJWith this announcement, Verizon is on track to become the #1 solar-power producer among all U.S. communications companies, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Based on its existing solar power capacity and onsite generating systems, combined with its new solar energy expansion plans for 2014, it’s clear that Verizon is on a path to become the solar-power leader in the U.S. telecom industry,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “In fact, we project that Verizon will be among the top 20 of all companies nationwide in terms of the number of solar installations it operates, and one of the top 10 companies in the U.S. based on solar generating capacity.”

Verizon contracted with SunPower Corp. to design and install all of the solar systems. The new equipment, consisting of high-efficiency rooftop, parking-structure and ground-mounted solar photovoltaic systems, will vary from site to site.

“With this milestone investment, Verizon is advancing its position among the handful of corporate leaders demonstrating how American businesses can serve their communities and control energy costs with on-site solar power generation,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Verizon, helping the company lower the long-term cost of energy at more facilities with SunPower’s high performance technology and services.”

Resch added, “This is a significant investment by Verizon, which will provide a boost to the economy, as well as the environment. Long a world leader in telecommunications services, Verizon is quickly becoming a leader in the deployment of green energy, too. When these projects are completed, Verizon will have nearly 16 MW of installed solar capacity, ranking it among the Top 10 companies in the United States. We commend Verizon on its commitment to the environment, and doing what’s best for current and future customers.”

No RFS = Gas Prices Decided by Foreign Chaos

With oil prices on a roller coaster because of the deteriorating situation in the Mideast, Americans United for Change stress that Americans need the EPA to stand by a secure, safe, reliable energy source the U.S. has complete control over: clean-burning, homegrown renewable fuels. Preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and cheaper choices at the pump for American consumers means more stability in gas prices, even in times of instability.

The turmoil in the Middle East is continuing causing volatility in gas prices. And with Labor Day around the corner, gas prices are expected to jump just in time for drivers to hit the roads. One solution to keep gas prices lower? Ethanol. As Jeremy Funk, communications director for Americans United for Change points out, the RFS would ensure ethanol is still available for consumers to choose at the pump.

Americans United for Change logoYet again, The U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) has just announced the final biofuel volumes of the RFS for 2014 and it seems unlikely the EPA will announced its proposed RFS volumes for 2015 by mid-November as required.

“If anything should give the EPA pause before deciding to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard as they have proposed, it’s the bubbling turmoil in Iraq,” said Funk. “That’s why the nation can’t afford to scale back the RFS now and put all our eggs in Big Oil’s basket.”

Funk explained that the oil industry has spent millions to rig the system against the homegrown competition. Those companies’ efforts — aside from leading to higher gas prices — would move American jobs overseas, reduce air quality, and contribute to climate change. That’s why American farmers, renewable energy leaders, veterans, nonprofit organizations, and others have come together to demand protection for the RFS. And Funk said they want consumers to join the fight for the RFS and demand lower gas prices and choice at the pump.

Biodiesel Gets Sustainability Award at West. Kentucky

Researchers at Western Kentucky University who worked on turning waste grease into biodiesel have been honored with that school’s sustainability award. The team from the engineering and agriculture departments picked up WKU’s 4th annual President’s Award for Sustainability during an awards ceremony last Friday.

schmaltzwkyu1More than eight years ago, WKU Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz completed a feasibility study to determine whether the supply of waste vegetable oil from WKU Dining could be transformed into a fuel source that could power the big machines at the WKU Farm. After the study determined that the campus supply of vegetable oil could support the farm’s annual needs of about 3,000 gallons of fuel, Dr. Schmaltz began working with Dr. Jack Rudolph, head of WKU Agriculture, and engaged others by involving 15 students in four teams as their senior engineering project. The first WKU biodiesel was produced in Spring 2012 and since then, more than 2,500 gallons of biodiesel has been produced. The project provides a rich learning opportunity for WKU students, in both engineering and agriculture.

The award honors individuals who exhibit excellence in supporting WKU’s commitment to sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices and sharing solutions, incorporating sustainability into existing programs, and implementing innovative ideas.

Bolt-On Biodiesel to be Discussed at Biofuels Conf.

hydroboltonbiodiesel1Ethanol operators looking to get more out of their bottom lines might want to make sure they listen carefully when “bolt-on biodiesel” options are discussed at an upcoming conference on the financials of green fuels. Georgia-based Hydro Dynamics, Inc.‘s vice president of R&D, Doug Mancosky, will present his company’s technologies at the 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference in Bloomington, Minn., this coming Wednesday through Friday, August 27th-29th to show how ethanol plants can diversify co-products and potentially increase profits.

The majority of ethanol plants already recover their corn oil and much of this ends up converted to biodiesel. By integrating a biodiesel plant directly into the ethanol plant a producer can realize many competitive advantages due to reduced transportation cost and shared infrastructure. HDI, along with its partners World Energy and Phibro Ethanol Performance Group, offer both transesterification reactor retrofits and complete biodiesel plants incorporating its cavitation based ShockWave Power Reactor (SPR).

SPR technology is already well established in the biodiesel industry with well over 500 million annual gallons of capacity sold using the SPR technology. The SPR technology has potential to offer ethanol producers a “bolt-on biodiesel” solution with significant initial capital savings and ongoing production cost efficiencies over conventional biodiesel plant technology.

More information is available on the Hydro Dynamics website.

RFS Headed to OMB for Review

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has sent its final rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in a last step before public release. Renewable fuels groups responded to the news today.

“We’re pleased to see the process moving forward and hope the final rule will show that this Administration is standing behind our national goals for clean, domestic fuels that strengthen our economy and national security,” said National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The original EPA proposal and continued delays have severely disrupted the U.S. biodiesel industry this year. We can begin to reverse that damage with a meaningful increase in the biodiesel volume that is finalized as quickly as possible so that producers can ramp up production in a timely fashion.”

“While we have not seen the rule, we hold strong in our belief that EPA and OMB will fulfill President Obama’s commitment to biofuels as a means of greater energy independence, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and wider availability of cost-saving alternative fuels for American consumers,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “This decision is about more than targets and gallons, it is about a rationale that places highest importance on the long term strength of this country and not the bottom line of oil companies.”

“While OMB has up to 90 days to review this rule, what is most important is the content of the final rule,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Ultimately, this final rule should promote the policy goals of the RFS and call for an increase in the production of renewable fuels, so we can continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs at home that cannot be outsourced and mitigate climate change, while we improve our environment.”

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, says his members are pleased with the progress. “Anything short of that turns the keys to the RFS over to the oil companies and puts cellulosic biofuel at risk,” said Jennings. “While all stakeholders have waited a long time for the final rule, and it could take another 30 days or more for interagency review, getting the rule done right is far more important than getting it done quickly.”

Since the rule is not public yet, there is no word on whether the volume requirements were changed from the initial proposal, which reduced the amount of ethanol and kept the biodiesel requirement the same. Senator John Thune (R-SD) expects some middle ground. “I think we’ll see an upward change,” he says. “I hope it’s a significant upward change and I hope that in ’15 they look at this in a different way.”

Thune still expects it will be later in the fall before a final rule is announced. EPA received over 340,000 comments on the proposal.

CEC Commissions Mass Community Solar Project

DCIM100MEDIAClean Energy Collective (CEC) has commissioned a community solar project in Massachusetts. The 1 MW Southeastern Massachusetts Community Solar Array in Rehoboth, Mass. is now open to all ratepayers in the NGRID territory. An event was held to mark the occasion and attendees heard from Jeffrey Ritter, Town Administrator for the Town of Rehoboth; Meg Lusardi, Acting Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources; Robert Terravecchia, CEO Weymouth Bank; and Paul Spencer, Founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective.

“I am excited to congratulate NGRID and our Massachusetts team on bringing this project to fruition,” said Clean Energy Collective’s CEO, Paul Spencer. “Never before has large-scale, economic solar been accessible to so many, including renters and those with shaded properties. We’re proud to have been able to bring this solution to such a solar-progressive state as Massachusetts and look forward to delivering much more.”

According to CEC, their community solar model provides the opportunity for residential and business customers in a participating utility territory to benefit from solar through a shared utility-scale array without having to install a stand-alone system at their home or business. Community solar customers receive many of the same rebates and incentives as residential system owners, and credit for the power produced appears directly on an owners’ monthly utility bills. The array is sited and maintained to operate at peak efficiency, delivering clean, dependable power for decades.

Following the grand opening of the Rehoboth array is a string of new CEC community solar facilities coming online in Massachusetts, including the 997-kW Western Massachusetts Community Solar Array in Hadley, Mass. that will begin serving WMECo ratepayers in September.

Mobile County Public Schools Converts to Propane

The Mobile County Public Schools will be moving their students this fall with 30 propane autogas buses. The school district is supporting the community outreach campaign, “It Starts With Us” and their first step is the converted Blue Bird Propane Visions buses.

“The deployment of our propane autogas bus fleet is a perfect example of our school system’s initiative, It Starts With Us,” said Pat Mitchell, director of transportation for Mobile County Public Schools. “We are providing dependable and clean student transportation while saving taxpayers money so we can put it back in the classroom where it counts most.”

MCPSS Propane Autogas school busOfficials rolled out the new buses during the MCPSS Transportation Department on International Drive. “Propane is cheaper, cleaner and domestically produced,” said Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, who took a test ride on one of the new propane buses. “This is an environmental initiative I can get behind.”

“We are pleased to be the very first school system in Alabama to enhance transportation through the use of propane buses,” said Superintendent Martha Peek. “We have taken this step because we understand the advantages are increased fuel efficiency, economic and environmental.”

Each bus will displace about 40,000 gallons of diesel and emit 150,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide over their lifetime and the fuel costs nearly 50 percent less than per gallon than diesel according to Todd Mouw with ROUSH Cleantech.

Before choosing to fuel with propane autogas, the school district’s transportation department performed a comprehensive evaluation. This process included safety research, cost savings analysis, site visits to school systems that operate buses with propane autogas, and phone interviews with transportation directors.

“The schoolchildren and taxpayers of Mobile benefit from this important decision,” said Dale Wendell, Blue Bird’s chief commercial officer. “The adoption of Blue Bird Propane Vision buses further emphasizes Mobile County Public Schools’ forward-thinking leadership and commitment to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, support a domestically produced fuel, and provide cleaner air for the students and the community.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Court of His Majesty Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, will attend the Grand Opening of POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ Project LIBERTY cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The King will take part in the Grand Opening Ceremony to perform the formal opening activity, scheduled for 11 a.m.-12:20 p.m. and tour the plant. POET-DSM is a joint venture between the U.S.-based POET and the Netherlands-based DSM.
  • Neste Jacobs will be speaking at World Bio Markets Brasil 2014 in September. Ahead of this session, they have released a new free report “Biofuels, do they have a future?” The report covers: feedstock – start with finding a feasible feedstock; processing – which one is the right one for your product? and end product – Neste Oil’s renewable diesel NExBTL.
  • DuPont has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against SunEdison and its affiliate NVT LLC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. In its complaint, DuPont alleges that by sourcing and using photovoltaic cells and solar modules containing Samsung SDI Co., Ltd. front side metallization paste, SunEdison infringes DuPont’s patented tellurium paste technology. The complaint also identifies Neo Solar Power of Taiwan as the cell manufacturer and Flextronics as SunEdison’s contract manufacturer.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that Southern Research Institute has been selected for negotiation for an award of up to $5.9 million to advance production of high performance, low cost carbon fibers from biomass. The DOE award will fund development of a multi-step catalytic process for conversion of sugars from non-food biomass to acrylonitrile – a key precursor in the production of carbon fiber.

Prez: Don’t Undermine the RFS

Fuels America is asking President Obama to not undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) especially as it relates to the development of cellulosic ethanol. The coalition has placed a full page ad in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette to tell the president how a proposal by his administration — if it is not fixed — will inadvertently cause investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol to shift to China and Brazil, undermining his effort to tackle climate change.

Fuels America Marthas Vineyard RFS adThe advertisement is an open letter focusing on the achievement of a major milestone in the president’s clean energy push as commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production becomes a reality this year as four large advanced biorefineries come online in 2014. While this could be just the beginning of a new American industry, private sector investment in the technology has paused due to a proposal by the EPA to fundamentally alter its approach to implementing the RFS. If the proposal isn’t changed before it is finalized, the letter warns, that investment will likely shift to China and Brazil, depriving the President of a key accomplishment.

The ad ends, “You have always been a strong champion of advanced biofuels and we know it is not your intent to undercut investment. It’s not too late to get the final rule right, so together we can make the United States the leader in producing the cleanest fuels in the world.

USGC Lists Top 10 Markets for US Ethanol

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) has compiled its top 10 list of potential U.S. ethanol markets for the upcoming 2014/2015 market year, starting September 1.

usgc-ethanol-mkts1

While Brazil and Canada remain the top two, the Council is assessing Japan and Korea, Latin America and Southeast Asia as potential markets for U.S. ethanol exports. In the number three spot, USGC believes Japan has the potential to import 459 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in the year ahead, which would account for 11 percent of global demand for U.S. ethanol. Seventh placed Mexico has the potential to import 236 million gallons of U.S. ethanol and the Philippines at number nine could import 90 million gallons. Those three markets combined could to represent almost 20 percent of global demand for U.S. ethanol.

Rounding out the top ten, USGC puts the United Kingdom in fourth place with nearly 305 million gallons, India and Nigeria ahead of Mexico in 5th and 6th place with 250 and 240 million gallons respectively. Australia is ranked in 8th place with 220 million gallons and the Netherlands completes the top 10 with just over 86 million.